11 Best Beach Resorts in North Carolina

Blockade Runner Beach Resort
Photo: Suzannah Franklin | Blockade Runner Beach Resort

The natural splendor that is North Carolina's coast is worthy of more than a gaze. Where the Tar Heel State greets the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles of barrier island beaches sprinkle the coastline, creating a vacationer's heaven on Carolina's eastern shore. Series of quiet stretches of sand make up larger, unspoiled territories—the Outer Banks, Brunswick Islands, and Wilmington, to name a few. Along Wrightsville Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, beach bums can be found relentlessly riding the surf. Quaint little beach towns, like Southport, lure visitors and full-time residents alike to meander their charming seaside avenues. Off the southernmost coast of North Carolina, the Brunswick Islands (popularly explored by kayak) play host to hundreds of bird species. Here, we've rounded up the best beach resorts for your southern stay.

01 of 11

Shell Island Resort

Getty Images

Wrightsville Beach

With 169 balcony rooms overlooking the Atlantic, Shell Island Resort—the only all-ocean-facing, all-suite stay on the island—fronts 3,000 feet of sweeping sand and surf.

Indulge in fresh fare—from seafood to steaks—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Shell Island Restaurant and Oceanfront Lounge. For a more casual approach, grab a bite (and a happy hour cocktail!) at the poolside bar and grill. Afterward, rent a surfboard to ride the waves, or hop on a bike to cruise the town. Or simply return to your shaded beach chair with a Tiki drink in hand.

2700 N. Lumina Ave., Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480 shellisland.com

02 of 11

Sanderling Resort

Sanderling Resort
Greg Ceo


When it comes to a luxury vacation experience on the Outer Banks, Sanderling Resort knows how to deliver. Situated along the wide, private beaches (but narrow mainland) of Duck—a stretch of North Carolina's northernmost coastline—the elegant beachfront resort offers Atlantic Ocean views from nearly every angle.

Kimball's Kitchen serves up world-class local seafood dishes (and world-class Currituck Sound views). Make the getaway complete with a visit to the spa, and soothe your soul further with a Beach Sunrise yoga session.

1461 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949 sanderling-resort.com

03 of 11

Blockade Runner Beach Resort

Blockade Runner Beach Resort
Suzannah Franklin | Blockade Runner Beach Resort

Wrightsville Beach

Once the site of stately hotels—The Seashore and The Ocean Terrace—Blockade Runner continues to uphold its coastal heritage in the most family-friendly, laid-back fashion, but with a cool retro-hip look in the lobby and poolside spaces. With harborfront and oceanfront suites, the resort can offer sweeping vistas of the bustling boats or the calm open ocean—take your pick.

Sprawling beach chairs and bright blue umbrellas line the sandy shore, as attendants provide rental services for lounging back in them. For beach-goers in search of a more adventurous beach experience, watersports like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, and sailing are conveniently available on the property—certified instructors included. A brief one-mile walk down the sandy beach will land you at Johnnie Mercer's Pier—the only concrete fishing pier in the state (and the only pier that charges a small fee for a stroll down it).

275 Waynick Blvd, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480 blockade-runner.com

04 of 11

Sea Trail Resort

Sea Trail Golf Resort
Photo courtesy of Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center

Sunset Beach

Nestled on 2,000 acres among three world-class golf courses, Sea Trail Resort's tight-knit community feel can't be beaten. You also can't beat its ideal blend of golf courses and stretches of sand (a short five-minute drive from the resort). With private suites and vacation rentals, families or golf groups can linger for a weekend or a month.

And golf isn't the only active option here. Horseback riding, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, yoga, and Zumba classes are also available to keep you busy. When mealtimes roll around, country club-style dining at Magnolia's Restaurant and Brassie's Pub (the more laid-back of the two) serves up scrumptious bites of Southern cuisine and cold beverages. Kick back poolside, and golf cart on the path or beachside—the best of every vacation world awaits.

75A Clubhouse Road, Sunset Beach, N.C. 28468 seatrail.com

05 of 11

Outer Banks Beach Clubs I & II

Outer Banks Seashells
NPS Photo/Chelsey Stephenson

Kill Devil Hills

The Outer Banks Beach Clubs I & II are a collection of oceanfront vacation condos in Kill Devil Hills. It's a large property with easy access to the ocean via the boardwalk, several indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, a sauna, shuffleboard courts, tennis courts, racket-ball courts, golfing (but with a per person golf cart fee), and full local YMCA fitness center privileges. Not only is there also a kids' club and two pools specifically designed for children, but there is also childcare available while adults work out at the gym, which makes both of these resorts terrific choices for family vacations. One, two, or three-bedroom condos are available at both resorts, which each have ocean front, ocean side, and poolside view locations. In addition, they have full kitchens and private terraces, with some even featuring jacuzzis.

There is an abundance of eateries, shopping opportunities, and historical attractions nearby, many only a short walk away. Tourists enjoy conveniently located and popular restaurants such as Food Dudes Kitchen, Duck Donuts, and Kill Devil's Frozen Custard & Beach Fries. Local entertainment and historical attractions include the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the OBX Mystery Dinner, and the Paradise Fun Park.

1110 South Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 outerbanksbeachclubresort.com

06 of 11

Islander Hotel & Resort

Islander Hotel & Resort
Courtesy of Crown Hotel & Travel Management

Emerald Isle Beach

Emerald Isle has many opportunities for beach-goers to enjoy, including picnic pavilions, boat and kayak launches, volleyball courts, and playgrounds. Meanwhile, amenities at Islander Hotel & Resort include a beachfront swimming pool with cabanas and a poolside bar, volleyball courts, and a picnic area with grills, with most of the rooms offering an ocean view. The resort is just a brief walk from Water Boggan Water Park and a short drive from Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier and North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

102 Islander Drive, Emerald Isle, NC 28594 islandernc.com

07 of 11

Sea Ranch Resort

Sea Ranch NC
Holly Gladd

Kill Devil Hills

With a great location right on the beach, the Sea Ranch Resort is a family-friendly retreat with rooms and condos (some are even pet-friendly!) that offers tourists ample opportunity to experience Kill Devil Hills. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, a gym, and oceanfront dining.

Like the Outer Banks Beach Clubs I & II, the Sea Ranch Resort is close to many great eateries and attractions of Kill Devil Hills. But if you don't want to leave the property and venture out into the world to find food, the resort's Beachside Bistro offers a creative menu of American Coastal Cuisine, featuring local seafood choices and daily Chef's specials. Their Cajun Roasted Oysters are award-winning.

1731 N. Virginia Dare Trail, MP 7, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 searanchresort.com

08 of 11

Golden Sands

Golden Sands Resort, an image of hotels along the beach
Courtesy of Golden Sands Resort

Carolina Beach

Facing Carolina Beach, Golden Sands is a five-story hotel with direct beach access, less than a half-hour drive from downtown Wilmington—which has live music, micro-breweries, museums, and more. The Carolina Beach Boardwalk is only a mile away and is filled with restaurants, an amusement park, and shopping destinations. Amenities at the resort include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub, a fitness room, a fishing pier, and an on-site restaurant.

Carolina Beach Jet Ski Rentals will allow you to take jet ski rides along the Intracoastal Waterway. Or out in the ocean, where you might get the chance to see or interact with dolphins and sea turtles. Beyond that, there are opportunities for stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals, surfing lessons, and scuba diving.

09 of 11

Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks

Arial View
Coastal Shots Photography

Kitty Hawk

The rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks feature private balconies with either direct or partial ocean views. Perks include an indoor pool, a seasonal outdoor pool, an on-site gym, a complimentary hot breakfast, and an all-day restaurant.

Just across the street is the Kitty Hawk Fishing Pier. Only 10 minutes away, you'll find the Wright Brothers Memorial. The Lost Colony, Currituck Lighthouse, and Wild Horse Tours are all about a half-hour drive away. Elizabethan Gardens and N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island are also nearby. Venture out a bit further to the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, where nature lovers can explore over 1800 acres of forests and marshes, and see some of the local wildlife—including white-tailed deer, gray foxes, and otters.

5353 N Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 Hilton Garden Inn Outer Banks/Kitty Hawk

10 of 11

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlantic Beach Oceanfront

Aerial View of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach

There's always a free cookie waiting for you when you arrive at a DoubleTree establishment, and that is reason enough to stay here. But another good reason is that every room has an amazing ocean view. Amenities include a fitness center, a bar and lounge, and indoor and outdoor pools, including a heated pool and a hot tub.

The hotel also offers easy access to many nearby attractions, shopping, and restaurants. Local dining options include Happycakes Cupcakery, Circa 81 Tapas and Cocktaileria, Dank Burrito, and the Ruddy Duck Tavern. As for entertainment and activities, try Game On Escape Rooms, Fort Macon State Park, Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail, Battle Works Tactical Laser Tag, Axe Throwing, and AB Watersport Adventures. Just across the bridge is Morehead City, which offers even more eateries, activities, and attractions—like Jaycee Park, the History Museum of Carteret County, the Carteret Community Theatre, and Sugarloaf Island.

2717 West Fort Macon Rd, Atlantic Beach, NC, 28512 Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Atlantic Beach

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Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks

Wrightsville Beach North Carolina
Morgan Wehring / EyeEm/Getty Images

Corolla Beach

Corolla Beach beach is one of the most popular vacation spots on the North Carolina coast, and the Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks is a lovely place to stay while experiencing it. The hotel's amenities include a free hot breakfast, indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, a hot tub, a fitness room, and private beach access.

Just a few miles away, you'll find the Currituck Club golf course. Elsewhere around Corolla is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Whalehead mansion, and the Currituck Maritime Museum, along with many shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities. The front desk at the Hampton Inn will also help arrange little adventures around town for you, like kayaking tours and observing wild Spanish mustangs.

333 Audubon Drive, Corolla, NC 27927 Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best beach in North Carolina?

    According to U.S. News, Emerald Isle is the number-one-rated beach in North Carolina. This beach is a part of the Crystal Coast section, with an extensive shoreline and 12 miles of beaches.

  • What is hurricane season in North Carolina?

    The North Carolina coastline is susceptible to heavy winds, intense storms, flooding, and landslides during hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season typically starts in mid-August and ends in late October.

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